A Love that Overcomes

Written by:  Dcs. Heidi Goehmann

heidioverwhelmed-9_22How many of us have seen the image, a lovely rainbow, stretched wide across the sky and it’s eloquent reminder that “God keeps His promises.”

It is indeed accurate, don’t get me wrong. When we teach little children the story of Noah and the flood that covered the earth, at the end of the day, this is the message that we want them to get. God is faithful. God said He would save Noah, and He saved Noah. God said humanity would continue through the line of Noah and so here we are. God said He would never destroy the whole earth with a flood and so He will not. God does keep His promises.

Isaiah gives us the more grownup version of the story. And sometimes it’s time to put on our big girl pants and read a little deeper, a little longer, a little harder.

Today, we’ll return to Isaiah 54. Let’s keep reading where we left off yesterday, verses 8-12.

Isaiah 54:8-12

In overflowing anger for a moment
I hid my face from you,
but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,”
says the Lord, your Redeemer.

“This is like the days of Noah to me:
as I swore that the waters of Noah
should no more go over the earth,
so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you,
and will not rebuke you.
10 For the mountains may depart
and the hills be removed,
but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,
and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,”
says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

11 “O afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted,
behold, I will set your stones in antimony,
and lay your foundations with sapphires.
12 I will make your pinnacles of agate,
your gates of carbuncles,
and all your wall of precious stones.

How many of you have felt overwhelmed? I would brave a guess that at our house this is at least a once a week occurrence for me, and is probably more accurate at once a day. In fact, if I’m honest, at any given time it’s like a tape loop in my head. “I’m so overwhelmed. I’m so overwhelmed.” So much to do…only so many hours in the day…tiny humans to keep alive…moderately happy husband…so many needs…life, just life.

Normally, when I address a topic like this I’d give you the 500 different reasons why you don’t need to be overwhelmed. I’d share Bible passages about God being our rock, our hope, and our solid foundation. Today, though, when we read Isaiah 54, overwhelmed may be just the thing we need for a little while; not forever, not for good, but for a time.

In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you…” (v.8)

Anger itself can be overwhelming for us. The God of the Universe overflowing with anger? Heck yes! Overwhelming. How does this fit in with a study of being loved?

A memory comes to mind of my mother when I was in my early twenties. My brother, 20 or so years my senior, was an alcoholic. In my effort to avoid labels I would say he had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, and he would correct me. He had been sober for years and would honestly admit to friend and stranger, “I’m an alcoholic. Can’t be around the stuff. I think it solves my problems and it never does.” He was having a hard time and had come to stay with my parents. My brother was overwhelmed. He was overwhelmed by life and his pain. He was overwhelmed by his own inability to change and to change the world around him. One night he came home blindly drunk. I opened the door for him and he fell flat on the ground. The thing that sticks with me is my mom’s face. She was livid. “Look at how far you’ve come, to throw it away! What happened? Why this? Why now?” And at the end of her rant, my father drew her in to himself and what did she do…she turned her face away. She could not look. It was too painful. She did not love him any less. I’m certain in that moment her heart was exploding with love for my brother, for each of us, for her family. She loved so much that it hurt to look.

I hid my face from you…”

God will not watch us destroy ourselves, but He also will not take over. He loves us enough to wait for the proper time, sometimes the bottom of the pit, to reach in and lift us up.

This is like the days of Noah to me…” (v. 9)

Take a look at Genesis 6:5-8.

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

Every intention of man, evil- from his mind to his heart to his actions. All of it, evil. Think of how overwhelmed Noah must have felt, a believer of the Most High God, imperfect, yes. Faithful, through God alone, yes. If you browse through Genesis 7-8, you will see that the promised flood did come. Noah’s reality was not rainbows and sunshine for some time, days and months seemed to linger on and on.

Genesis 7:23-24 –

He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark.24 And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days.

Do you ever have a day when you hear one too many news reports and think, “Lord have mercy!”? Does the feeling of not being enough, not getting it right wash over you, flooding you…overwhelmed? Have you had a struggle in your family that causes you to look around and say, “I’m done, Lord. Overwhelmed. Finished. You take it from here.”

Isaiah 54:10 gets really honest. Read again, below.

For the mountains may depart
and the hills be removed…

We will be overwhelmed. We will. The world, it’s not getting better. Those mountains will depart it says, the hills will be removed. This is active language. The Hebrew root for the verb removed is mot. This root also means shaken, slip, fall, give way.

We will be shaken. We will fall. Difficult things will come. And when you love deeply, your family, your neighbors, as God intended, there will be days that the struggle washes over your whole self and you feel a bit like you’re drowning. But here is the good news –

You are not overcome.

You are overwhelmed. You are not overcome.

God does keep His promises.

Isaiah 54 continues in verse 9 –

…but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,
and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,”
says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

This is the grown-up promise. We may be overwhelmed, but we will not be overcome. God has made a covenant of peace with us in Christ Jesus. This promise is laid out all over Isaiah, let’s see just a sample in two verses a few pages ahead.

Isaiah 63:7-8

I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord,
the praises of the Lord,
according to all that the Lord has granted us,
and the great goodness to the house of Israel
that he has granted them according to his compassion,
according to the abundance of his steadfast love.
For he said, “Surely they are my people,
children who will not deal falsely.”
And he became their Savior.

…according to the abundance of his steadfast love…He became their Savior.”

We may be overwhelmed. We are not overcome.

We have a Savior. His name is Jesus Christ, Savior of the World. We need Him. He is not shaken. He is a solid foundation. He does not slip, even when the earth gives way.

Don’t you love grown promises? I am not overcome.

Until next week, girls. God keeps His promises.